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Kotick responds to concerns about public image, plus criticises 'lost' EA

Activision boss on Schafer, Respawn and 'taking fun out of games'

Activision CEO Bobby Kotick has responded to allegations about his alleged negative attitude towards games and developers.

In an interview with Edge magazine, Kotick attempted to defuse his own prior comment that he was "taking the fun out of videogame development."

"That was a joke!" he claimed. "The fact that there are people – and it's a small vocal minority – that actually think that I meant it... How do you combat that?

"This is my dream job. I've been playing games since I was 18 years old. I could have bought any company, but I bought a bankrupt game company, and I've been doing it for 21 years. This idea that I'm not passionate about videogames is ludicrous."

Kotick also responded to an infamous assertion by Double Fine head Tim Schafer in July. The Brutal Legend creator had described the Activision boss in especially unfavourable terms when discussing his time working with Kotick's then-company Vivendi.

"The guy comes out and says I'm a prick," said Kotick. "I've never met him in my life – I've never had anything to do with him.

"I never had any involvement in the Vivendi project that they were doing, Brütal Legend, other than I was in one meeting where the guys looked at it and said, 'He's late, he's missed every milestone, he's overspent the budget and it doesn't seem like a good game. We're going to cancel it.'

"And do you know what? That seemed like a sensible thing to do. And it turns out, he was late, he missed every milestone, the game was not a particularly good game..."

Kotick was also critical of EA's approach to its internal studios, claiming (in contrast to the reported events that led to the departure of key Infinity Ward staff) that his own company took better care of its acquisitions.

"The core principle of how we run the company is the exact opposite of EA," he argued. "EA will buy a developer and then it will become 'EA Florida', 'EA Vancouver', 'EA New Jersey', whatever.

"We always looked and said, 'You know what? What we like about a developer is that they have a culture, they have an independent vision and that's what makes them so successful.'

"We don't have an Activision anything - it's Treyarch, Infinity Ward, Sledgehammer... There's not a studio at this company that will tell you: 'Activision is forcing us to get the game out.'

"Look, EA has a lot of resources, it's a big company that's been in business for a long time, maybe it'll figure it out eventually. But it's been struggling for a really long time. The most difficult challenge it faces today is: great people don't really want to work there.

"It's like, if you have no other option, you might consider them... we have no shortage of opportunity to recruit out of EA – that's their biggest challenge: its stock options have no value. It's lost its way. "

Despite this assertion, Respawn, the studio formed by Infinity Ward bosses after their acrimonious departure from Activision earlier this year, will publish its first game through EA.

On this matter, Kotick claimed to have been betrayed. "It shook my belief in two specific people, who were my friends," he said.

"The frustrating thing about that is, the stuff that these guys did, I never would have expected them to do. We're a public company, we've got ethics obligations, and the things they did were... I would go to jail if I did them.

"You can't use the company and the company's assets for your own personal benefit, and you can't use the leverage that you might have for personal benefit – you're not allowed to do that! And so we didn't have any choice."

Respawn nonetheless went on to recruit hired a number of Infinity Ward key staff within weeks of formation.

About the Author

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Alec Meer

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A 10-year veteran of scribbling about video games, Alec primarily writes for Rock, Paper, Shotgun, but given any opportunity he will escape his keyboard and mouse ghetto to write about any and all formats.

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